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Anil Kapoor and Kunal Kemmu talk about Malang, working with Mohit Suri and playing offbeat characters

Kapoor will be next seen playing the role of an ‘eccentric and an angry cop frustrated with the system’ in Mohit Suri’s directorial, Malang (releases on 7 February). This isn’t the first time he has played a cop on screen. Earlier, he wore the khaki uniform in films like Ram Lakhan and Race. “I was worried how will I do it. I have played similar characters in my past films but not so dark that people hate you. My character has a lot of angst and violence inside him. He is angry towards the department, towards the system, he is also angry with his life. He wants to inflict pain on himself. He takes drugs. He goes crazy. But I wanted my character to be fun because after all it is for a commercial movie and people want to be entertained. So we played a lot with the look. The red glasses and tattoo was Mohit’s idea and we let the natural grey shine. He is 50 plus and he should look like one,” said Kapoor.

Kapoor’s prep has been exhaustive, as usual. He says he invests a lot of time on working on his character, and till the time he doesn’t get a grip on it, he is restless, cranky and irritable. “Also, here I was working with a team of young people – Mohit, Aditya (Roy Kapur) and Disha (Patani). You do get tense with young people around you. Their body is great. My motivation always is how do I add value to my character as well as the film and make the director happy so that he casts me again (laughs). Besides doing workshops and research, I watched films that were close to this film and my character. My son suggested that I watch Bad Lieutenant because it has a cop with slightly dark shades. Then, I also spoke to some cops and encounter specialists here in Mumbai. I prepped and practiced a lot at home and then called Mohit to tell him how I want to make the character little humorous and bring in a bit of madness to it without looking fake and unreal,” adds Kapoor, who will be next seen in Karan Johar helmed Takht. The film will mark his first appearance in a period drama.

Kapoor’s co-star Kunal Kemmu, who was recently seen in an intense role in Kalank, is excited about collaborating with his director from his debut film (as an adult actor), Kalyug (2005), after 15 years. “I used to often ask Mohit why haven’t we worked together again and he would say that with Kalyug we set a bar and whatever we do next will be judged. We had to push the envelope a bit to recreate the magic and when he came to me with Malang I was organically attracted towards playing a certain character. Now when the film has happened I understand what Mohit meant. It is so special in so many ways because even with Kalyug I was breaking the mould of a child actor and now with Malang it is a part that I have never played before. Parts like these don’t get written so often. The characters are very interesting. The trailer was quite intriguing till it slowly peels off and you have the whole puzzle in front of you,” said Kemmu. “And what Mohit has kept intact within him is his sense of music. He understands relationships very well and gets intensities right which is probably because of Mahesh Bhatt’s mentoring. Malang is by far, visually the most good looking film that he has made.”

including, Traffic SignalSuperstar and Blood Money failed to make an impact and that probably pushed him to introspect and come to terms with the unpredictable nature of showbiz. Initially, he was tagged as a serious actor but gradually he proved his ease with comedy as well. How does he see his metamorphosis as an actor? “I never categorised myself as an actor. Typecast happens from the industry and sometimes with the audiences because they like you doing something. After I did Kalyug and Traffic Signal the only way I could do a comedy was agreeing to do the ensemble cast Dhol. Lot of people said that why would you do a four- hero film because you had good things happening in the solo space. But I wasn’t thinking the way I think today. I just wanted to prove my comic skills. I felt that one comedy would lead to more comedies in the future and I am glad that with Golmaal Again I could prove my versatility. I tried to do different brands of comedy and that is how Go Goa Gone was done with characters written differently. I am equally excited to do a comedy as I am to do serious roles and action thrillers. Luckily, Malang and Kalank came my way. Then there was also this web show Abhay that happened which is going in season two now,” said Kemmu, who featured as a child actor in popular films like Sir, Raja HindustaniZakhm, Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke and Dushman.

“But I haven’t changed my process. Lot of times people say that you took a break but I don’t think any actor takes a break just because he wants to chill. It is because he is either not getting that much work, or work that he is getting isn’t what he wants to do. In my case work reduced because of films not working at the box office. Now, for me, it’s important to choose films that I would enjoy doing and that would also be seen. When I started off I was naïve where I believed that all you have to do is look for a good script. But now I know better what goes into making a film and reaching the audience. Sometimes you wait to get the right film. I love performing and if I had my way I want to act every single day because even when you are on a film set you are spending most of your time in the van waiting. I have the most fun between action and cut,” concludes Kemmu.

It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

One such character was the wonderfully-nuanced cameo by SayaniGupta, who played Hina Siddiqui, a young Muslim woman driven to despair.  It’s a small but pivotal and deeply impactful role, so much so that Sayani was lauded for her performance by some of the veterans from the industry. Twitterati in large numbers also poured their love for her.

Gupta has so far been doing a balancing act between commercial and art cinema. She has received critical acclaim for her offbeat and distinctive roles in films like her debut Margarita With A Straw (played the role of Kalki’s love interest)and most recently Fan (as Shah Rukh Khan’s secretary), however, Sayani doesn’t take compliments or criticism seriously.

“I have never sat down to ponder over what others have to say because ultimately you know what you have done. Piyush Mishra (theatre and film actor, NSD alumni) called me few days back when I was shooting for Jagga Jasoos, and said while referring to Jolly LLB 2, ‘I didn’t know you acted so well.’  Lot of people are complimenting me on social media as well. Somebody told me that they went to watch the film thrice because of me. There are lot of people who said I made them feel for the part and I made them cry,” says Sayani.

sayani

She continues, “My performance really moved my mother, and she is far too detached about the industry and not at all excited about the film world or what I am doing. She is not in favour of me acting and it was quite a struggle to convince her when I went to FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). Little by little, she is coming to terms with it but she would have rather seen me as an IAS officer or in a regular job.”

“We are from middle class family and they didn’t want their only daughter to get into films. Obviously there are certain perceptions about the film industry. My close friends never say nice things, they are always critiquing my work, but finally they felt that I was brilliant in Jolly LLB 2.”

Strangely enough, Sayani has been getting offers for horror movies for last few years and she, too, fails to understand the reason for it. “Maybe they think I am a Bengali, I have big eyes…” she laughs.

While Sayani so far has rejected two offers post Jolly LLB 2 (as  she is “choosy”, “instinctive”, “and not ready for it”), she is certainly excited about her first international project, The Hungry, which is an Indo-British production starring Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra. The film, for which the actors were very selectively chosen, is directed by debutante filmmaker Bornila Chatterjee, who is an alumnus from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. The Hungry is an adaptation of William Shakespeare tragedy Titus Androcinus, which is believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593.

“This year marks the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare. His stories could seem a tad hyper-real for this era, but this film is a realistic take. The script won at a collaborative cine-lab,” says Sayani, further adding, “The film has a bunch of deadly actors. We shot for it in Delhi and Agra. The ambience on set was stimulating and since we all got along so well, it turned out to be a great shoot.”

Recently, Sayani earned an honourable mention for the Best Actress award for her short film, Leeches, at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles  (IFFLA). In just two years of her career, she’s also bagged one of the lead roles opposite Naseeruddin Shah with The Hungry. The actress considers it her privilege to act alongside ‘Naseer’, who was her teacher at the FTII.

“Naseer was very excited about his role after decades. He plays my father. He has been my teacher and lot of my understanding about acting and the craft is because of him. It was almost like reassurance of sorts when he would come to take our class. I adore him as a human being. He is fun to be around. He has always taught us how acting is all about reacting. He is a keen listener, which adds to the performance,” she says, adding:

“There are two of the coolest men I have worked with – Shah Rukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. They are sensitive, they are aware, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are normal dudes.”

So did Sayani take any advice from the two “coolest” men?

“Some of the things Naseer told me is: ‘Learn your lines till you bump into a furniture. Know your lines backwards. Study the script well. Be relaxed and don’t take things too seriously. Make it fun and light.’ On the other hand, there’s much to learn just by the way Shah Rukh carries himself. He is the most technically sound actor, I feel. His understanding, the cleanliness with which he does everything, his craft is solid. He doesn’t show it. He is persistently hardworking and also the humility. He doesn’t take his stardom seriously,” she reveals.

Two of Sayani’s “friends” from the industry are the erstwhile directors – Rajkumar Hirani and Vishal Bhardwaj. She may not have offers from them yet but she certainly takes their advice. “I don’t talk work with them. Hirani often tells me that I should give people time after they have seen my film. I did audition for a part in Rangoon but Vishal told me that it won’t be good enough for me. I would never ask them to cast me because that could hamper our relationship. Whenever they want to cast me, they will.”

Sayani is currently shooting for Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif- starrer Jagga Jasoos which has been in the making for a long time. “When I signed the film I was playing the only narrator in the film. I had a separate track of my own. But since there is no script — Dada (Director Anurag Basu) doesn’t work with scripts, he writes as he goes along — my role has changed. I will know what my part is only after I see the film. Also, it is a very difficult film when it comes to format. It is musical, it’s a children’s film, and it is not a normal narrative. I play a 14-year-old girl and that is all I know (laughs),” she says.

People talk about Aishwarya Rai’s beauty more': ‘Sarbjit’ director Omung Kumar

National award winning director and production designer Omung Kumar says he was questioned by many for his choice of casting  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur in his upcoming biopic Sarbjit.

However, Omung was happy, confident and convinced with his selection. “Everybody told me I was mad to cast Aishwarya. But then, they said similar things when I cast Priyanka Chopra for Mary Kom; that she won’t fit the role, she doesn’t look North Eastern, and so on.”

“But I’d decided that for Dalbir’s part, I wanted someone who’s mature enough, who could play a 22-year-old and 60-year-old as well, someone who commands and demands respect when she speaks. Aishwarya is a director’s actress, she is a fantastic. We can see her in any role possible, but yes, they talk about her beauty more,” says Omung.

Sibling

He continues, “Also, Aishwarya agreed to do the film immediately because she knew that this is a role of a lifetime. One cannot say no to this role because you owe it to society.”

Meanwhile, Randeep Hooda, stunned everyone with his physical transformation to play Sarabjit (the Indian national who was famously detained in Pakistan for 23 years) and went on a rigorous diet while losing a whopping 18 kgs in a period of just 28 days.

He says that he was initially worried about playing the part. “Omung has been saying that I said yes to the role in 15 minutes, but the fact is that I was scared. I was apprehensive. I had liked the script but it was hard to commit, and then, I take my commitment very seriously. Who in the right mind would go through all that?”

“Finally I decided to have a conversation with myself, not with the director, and agreed to step into the role,” says Randeep, who had transformed into the skeleton of a starving man.

Further, to get into the skin of the character, Randeep would carry his work home religiously. Says Omung, “At home he started living in a dark, dingy corner with absolutely no light, all through day and night. I had demarcated an area of 6 feet by 4 feet and he would live, walk only in that portion. He had also asked for chains which were tied around his hands and legs. More than losing weight, it was Sarabjit’s psyche he wanted to get into. He had to actually live that person for several months.”

Sarbjit releases on 20 May.